This year saw the 10th anniversary of the release of the bleak and intriguing Icelandic film Nói Albinói (Nói the Albino), directed by Dagur Kári. It explores the life of teenage outsider Nói (played by Tómas Lemarquis) in a remote fishing village in northwestern Iceland.
Having recently visited this snowy far-flung location (Bolungarvik), the film has a particurlarly poignancy for me and was probably the reason why I finally acted on all the recommendations I’d received over the years and got around to watching this highly-acclaimed movie. And I’m glad I did. It is a slow and surprising tale where snow and despair feature highly; the film intrigues as much as it creates a sense of intrepidation (in me at least, but that is a different story; ask me about it sometime if you fancy).
The story of Noi Albinoi
The centre of attention is a 17-year-old albino called Nói who drifts through the drudgery of daily life, spending much of his time away from school and in his secret hideaway beneath his grandmother’s house. He dreams of escape from the ‘white-walled prison‘, whilst his misfit father keeps dropping in and out of his life in an effort to reconnect. Nói is known around town as somewhat of a harmless troublemaker, although the shrink from the big city thinks otherwise – is there a genius hiding within? When a new girl arrives in town, Nói gets a new lease of life, only for hopes to be shattered when the white walls come crumbling down around him.
Beautifully shot to encapsulate the isolation of a village that is all but cut-off from the outside world during the harsh winters, the towering mountains of the fjord location are a dominant backdrop throughout. Yes, the scenery does capture your attention but in the main it is the oddball central character who endears you with his eccentricity and even his charismatic rebel teen allure.
The director sets the film brilliantly with snowscape scenery laying a blanket of bleakness, combining a character study of claustrophobia with a dry humour amidst 1970s-style decor and design (a clunky dictaphone being the latest in hi-tech gadgetry causing a stir amongst the locals). This is not a shiny, happy film. It is an incredibly slow-paced, slightly uncomfortable quirky tale that, if you let yourself be drawn in, will pack a punch in the powerful conclusion.
Two random things I was left wondering. Why was noone dressed quite properly for the sub-zero temperatures?
& how come Nói didn’t open his secret cellar to the new girl in town? Things could have turned out very differently.
Additional fact: the soundtrack of the film is by Slowblow, the writer-director Dagur Kári in his musical guise together with Orri Jónsson (co-director of another astounding Icelandic film featured here on the Nordic Vibes site: Grandma Lo-Fi). This track is the last one of the movie that can be heard as the credits roll: